Repairing Your Abusive Relationship . . . With Yourself

Michael Loren

There’s a time in a little girl’s life when she can revel in the joy of her own beauty. There’s a time when she can delight in the perfection of the creation that is herself, a time when she can spin and giggle without a shred of self-consciousness. And then, with a silent whisper of another child, it can be whisked away forever.

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It was Easter Day in 1984 and I was on top of the world. My mom had been working diligently for days at her sewing machine creating what would be my “Easter Dress.” It was green and white gingham with white lace ruffles and when I placed it over my head, I turned to the mirror and inhaled. I was a pretty princess. I twirled as my mom clapped and grinned.

Then, mommy carefully took out my pin curls. I giggled as the blonde ringlets bounced from my mother’s hands. I was sure that, at that moment, I was the best possible version of me. I ran outside to my swing set, hopped on my seat, started swinging, and watched as the wind blew through my ruffles and ringlets so that they glistened in the morning sun. I was beautiful.

I remember the feeling of being something beautiful surrounded by a world inhabited by other beautiful things. I remember the unbridled joy of the newness of spring, the scent and crinkle of fresh fabric, and the creak of the chains of the swing set as I swung higher and higher toward the sun, acknowledging my distant but familiar radiant relative.

This is one of my favorite memories from childhood. I’m sure I’ve gotten some of the details wrong and when I publish this, my mom will comment on the date or the color of my ruffles. Nevertheless, the most important thing I remember about this specific moment was the feeling. I felt . . . radiant.

I’m sure that my meticulously coiffed hair and brand spanking new dress had a lot to do with it, but I believe that there is a deeper level of nuance behind this memory. In the spring of 1984, I was just about to turn five years old. I was old enough to appreciate the specialness of my unique brand of joy. But I was young enough to not chastise myself for being brazen enough to think myself to be pretty.

Something happens to little girls after that age. Someone calls us an ugly name or someone pokes fun at our homemade dress. Inevitably, something eventually shuts down our ability to purely enjoy the vessel in which we live our lives.

Another little person tells that little girl that her ears are too big or that her curly hair looks dumb and, like a light switch, that joy is gone. Or, even worse, an adult tells her that it’s not nice to call herself beautiful.

And then, after a few years, we begin to add the word “but” to our sentences when we say something nice about ourselves. We make self-deprecating statements to make others feel better as we begin to hide, cover, and photoshop. We begin to compare, we begin to qualify, and we begin to erode the confidence that once existed. All while stuffing that little joyous girl deeper into the darkness.

As an adult, I have little glimmers of that feeling. I get my hair done and I swing it back and forth in the mirror and think, “I don’t look terrible.” But that’s usually about as much as I can muster. The bright yellow sunshine of that Easter Day has been eroded by the careless comments of others and my self-inflicted wounds, painting a dull yellow paint over the luminescence of the past.

As I look into the mirror as an aging woman, I would like to look forward to a new spring. I would like to create a new awareness and wonder for my body that has served me well for so many years. I would like to begin to chip away at the negative words and thoughts that have weighted down my brilliance. I would like to be the best version of me. I would like to say again, without shame . . .

I am beautiful.

It is hard to tell when we become abusive to ourselves. When we begin to utter phrases inside our heads that we would never say to another human. I have spent decades as my own worst enemy, inwardly pummeling myself for every mistake, every flaw, and everything that wasn't perfect. It was only recently that I realized that if someone else spoke to me the way I speak to myself, I would refuse to be in a relationship with them.

But I'm stuck with myself. For better or for worse. We're all stuck with ourselves. So, I encourage you all to begin to repair your relationships with yourselves. Apologize to that little joyous girl and begin to replace the internal negativity with kind words and encouragement. Because, at the end of the day, we're all beautiful.

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Professional writer and journalist with concentration in data analysis. I specialize in interpreting data to give you unbiased, understandable information related to the state of California.

Los Angeles, CA
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